EWG’s Uses Rhetoric and Name Calling To Divert Discussion Away From the Science

EWG’s Uses Rhetoric and Name Calling To Divert Discussion Away From the Science

10/20/2011 2:57 PM


We’ve discovered that engaging the Environmental Working Group in a discussion is much like talking with a teenager.  While you’re insisting he or she finish their homework before hanging out with friends, they’re arguing that you never let them do anything or you just don’t like their friends, etc. etc.  Anything to divert the conversation away from the real issue – getting the homework done.

Over the last couple of days, the Alliance engaged with EWG in an online discussion about the pesticide residue issue while commenting on an article that appeared in Food Safety News http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/10/pesticides-are-good-for-you/.  And, just like the teenager analogy, instead of debating about the science, EWG and their supporters worked diligently to divert the conversation away from the real topic by repeatedly stating that we were a pesticide industry front group, questioning our funding sources, making inaccurate claims about how much funding we have, as well as making accusations we are trying to “sell the notion” that “chemicals designed to kill are perfectly safe for kids to eat.”  All in an effort to discredit the Alliance and keep the conversation about anything other than the issue at hand.

EWG and their supporters did engage in one activity that most teenagers seem to avoid nowadays – name-calling.  It was amazing to see either our comments or the Alliance staff referred to as robots, trolls, shills, homely, naughty, among other things.  They were also mad that we posted as the “Alliance for Food and Farming” instead of as an individual, which made no sense but this became a running theme.

This diversion tactic in an attempt to avoid the real issue is quite obvious because EWG knows exactly what the Alliance is, who we represent, who is on staff and how much funding we have.  But, while engaging with EWG can be tiring and frustrating, we did learn some important things. 

First, we asked EWG specifically about their plans to peer review their Dirty Dozen list report.  We felt this was a logical question since the article we were commenting upon discussed a peer reviewed report in the Journal of Toxicology by Dr. Carl Winter of University of California, Davis.  Dr. Winter analyzed EWG’s Dirty Dozen list and found that it was not based upon sound science and ignored basic tenets to establish risk. 

EWG’s response to our question:  “It’s a guide. Claiming that it needs to be peer reviewed is a straw man argument.” Interestingly another blogger (Snack Girl) asked EWG the same question http://www.snack-girl.com/snack/dirty-dozen-false/?e=ch9xryhK.  Their response to her was:  “It is not published in a peer-reviewed journal. However, EWG and its research department stand 110 percent behind the methodology.”  So if EWG stands behind this list so strongly – then wouldn’t they want a credible, science-based third party to assess it and publish it in order verify their claims? Or, put another way, why wouldn’t they?   

We were also pleased to see the EWG and the Alliance agree that EPA standards governing pesticide use are stringent and health protective.  In one of EWG’s comments they stated: “EPA takes a different tact in assessing pesticide risks. It focuses on children age 2 to 5 who are a vulnerable population for pesticide toxicity, look at all sources of pesticides in kids diets, drinking water and home environment, and wherever possible the additive effects of pesticides. Using this approach they have made numerous restrictions to pesticide permissions that have improved the safety of commercial produce.”  We couldn’t agree more and as we posted in one of our comments, this statement is very similar to the findings of the Alliance for Food and Farming’s Expert Panel Report which also examined the pesticide residue issue and the Dirty Dozen list. The full report can be found on this website in the research section.

We were a bit puzzled by one of EWG’s comments to another post which came very late in this very long discussion.  “In the past farm bills and the upcoming one EWG has been fighting for more federal support not just for organics, but for conventional fruit and vegetables in California.”  So EWG continually bashed us during this dialogue (and over the last year and a half) for defending the safety of wholesome conventionally grown produce, they call these healthy products “dirty” and say that the Alliance is “trying every trick to get families to feed their kids pesticides.”  But now EWG is “fighting” to get federal support for conventionally grown produce? By this action, EWG must agree with us that conventionally grown produce is, indeed, very safe.  This is similar to EWG’s statement on their website and in media reports that, “the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.”

After reading the long comment line, one can see that, at times, EWG’s diversionary tactics worked with us.  We forgot an important point (until our last post).  Safefruitsandveggies.com is about removing fear as a barrier to consumption.  It’s about nutrition and ensuring kids are eating enough fruits and vegetables. It’s about farmers working hard to provide consumers with safe and wholesome organic and conventionally grown produce.  It’s about providing consumers with good information to help them make their choices in the marketplace in an environment free of rhetoric, catch phrases, etc.  So let’s stop the rhetoric and name-calling and let the science speak.  And, one way EWG can let science speak is through the peer review process, which we will continually remind them about.  It can be their “homework.”


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